Barbara Gothard | Ep 161

Barbara Gothard, artist and educator, was born and raised in the landlocked agricultural community of Springfield, Illinois.

Growing up in the middle of lush, green farmland, Barbara says she first experienced the desert while turning the pages of National Geographic. Barbara’s first visit to a desert came through a cultural exchange program. Barbara recalls flying from the UK to Israel and the image of the blue green waters of the Mediterranean Sea giving way to the oranges and yellows of the sand. Through corporate travels, Barbara often visited the west coast of Africa – Namibia - where she experienced some of the largest sand dunes in the world, as well as the turbulence of flying over the Sahara.

Barbara’s experiences with a stateside desert were on work trips to Palm Springs. Being work trips, there wasn’t much opportunity to be ‘in’ the desert and really experience it.

Barbara was in second grade when her artistic abilities surfaced. The teacher invited Barbara’s mother in for a conversation about Barbara's artwork and a few weeks later, Barbara was enrolled in a Saturday art class. Barbara continued developing her art through high school and college, majoring in art, as well as earning a master’s in art and a PhD in Educational Administration.

In this episode, Barbara talks about the decision to set aside exhibiting her art to focus on being a wife and mother. A chance introduction at a conference in Florida found Barbara interviewing for a corporate job, for which she was hired. Barbara left the world of education behind and had an amazing corporate career which has taken her around the world.

After the global whirlwind came to an end, Barbara landed in Southern California and found herself visiting her two best friends in Palm Springs - often. They convinced her to move closer – she’s been in Palm Springs since 2012. As Barbara was finding her way in her new community, she met Peggy Vermeer , the first employee of the Palm Springs Art Museum. Peggy immediately invited Barbara to join the museum and the Artists Council.

Barbara’s involvement in these organizations found her wondering about other African American artists – or other African American female artists - living and working in the desert. Three years of research will culminate with a residency at BOXOHouse in Joshua Tree in October. Barbara will use her time and research to create interpretive works of the African American homesteader experience in ‘African American Homesteaders of Lanfair Valley'.

Upcoming events (2021-2022) featuring Barbara’s work and discussions are as follows:

October 8, at the Old Schoolhouse Lecture Series, presented by the Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park

October 16, at Copper Mountain College

October 23, 24 at BOXOHouse

January 10 to April 10, 2022 at San Bernardino County Museum

More about Barbara and her work:

On the web:

Instagram: @barbaragothardart and #barbaragothard

Blog: Mojave Contradictions